Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Dragon

'The Extraordinary vs Ordinary' - Do we create fantasies to escape the harsh realities of the real world? In my ongoing project I have furthered tried to illustrate this point and ask the audience this question by looking at the dragon.
The Dragon is a staple of mythical stories, appearing in Athurian tales and Chinese myths. It is, more often than not, the villain of the piece, imposing a threat to the masses only to be slayed by the hero. As part of this section of the project I am continuing to look at mythical threats and comparing them to similar threats in our real world and for The Dragon I want to look at the plane - not necessarily a fighter but any kind of plane. The plane now populates the sky, just as Dragon's allegedly did in myths, but can also be airborne terrors wreaking terror and destruction.
For the first part, I am focusing merely on the dragon and began by researching the Chinese Dragon - an easily recognisable design and also a design that has close connotations with puppetry thanks to processions that take place during Chinese New Year. Fortunately, at the time of undertaking this part of the project, Chinese New Year was also occuring so I went along to Chinatown and picked up this puppet as well as looking at the various design that were scattered about.
Looking at this puppet, the Chinese dragons around Chinatown and through books in the library I made initial sketches of how I wanted my dragon to look. From the above puppet I knew I wanted it to have two poles on either side but I also wanted to take inspiration from the traditional English dragon design by adding wings as I thought this would make the airborne-plane comparison a smoother fit and also create a more interesting shape as with puppets whether they are for stage or screen must be appealing to the eye.
As with most things I initially made a paper maquette version to see what works and what needs tweaking more specifically with movement. I had decided with this puppet I wanted to work in metal. Again this would make easy comparison with a plane and with a metal dragon seeming the more equal counterpart of a plane. It was also interesting to try making a puppet from a material I had not used before and after researching and looking into the best type of metal to use, I came across aluminium tooling foil which is more often used for jewellery and embossing but is thin enough and plyable enough for me to shape how I wanted while also being sturdy enough to keep its shape.
Unlike the Chinese dragon puppet, my main body was made of separate components as the accordion effect is just not possible with the tooling foil. Each part was then tied to the next with a very thin metal wire, again, more often used in jewellery making.
The two rods that prop up the puppet are bamboo sticks that are painted a charcoal grey so that they are less of an eyesore and the wings are attached to each other with wire so that they can be manipulated from beneath.

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